Trump impeachment calls snowball, putting pressure on Pelosi

Democratic calls for impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE snowballed on Tuesday, lending enormous new momentum to efforts to oust the president and posing the toughest test yet for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Calif.) and other party leaders grappling with the potential repercussions.

The list of new impeachment supporters spans the ideological spectrum, including liberal holdouts, vulnerable centrists, committee chairs and party icons like Rep. John LewisJohn LewisObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial John Lewis to miss Martin Luther King Jr. Day event MORE (D-Ga.), who endorsed the process Tuesday afternoon in a fiery speech on the House floor.

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"The future of our democracy is at stake," Lewis said. "There comes a time when you have to be moved by the spirit of history to take action to protect and preserve the integrity of our nation."

Pelosi and her leadership team have long rejected the idea of impeaching Trump, wary of the potential blowback against vulnerable centrists at the polls next year.

But recent allegations that Trump pressed a foreign leader to investigate a political rival have sparked an uproar within the Democratic Caucus, leading dozens of lawmakers to jump on the impeachment bandwagon in the last 24 hours alone.

Against that backdrop, Pelosi will huddle Tuesday afternoon with the six committee chairs investigating allegations of wrongdoing against Trump, while a separate meeting of the full Democratic Caucus — unusual ahead of the week's votes — is scheduled for 4 p.m.

“The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to rein in a lawless President,” Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHakeem Jeffries tells Senate in impeachment proceedings they should subpoena Baseball Hall of Fame after Jeter vote Video becomes vital part of Democrats' case against Trump Female impeachment managers say American public know a 'rigged' trial when they see one MORE (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, tweeted Tuesday, announcing the 4 p.m. meeting. “We will do our job #ImpeachmentInvestigation.”

Many Democrats now want to go beyond the ongoing investigative strategy long favored by Pelosi and other top leaders.

New reports that Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE and his son, Hunter Biden, have supercharged the impeachment push, with a number of moderate lawmakers suddenly changing their tune.

Some of those centrists, like Rep. Antonio DelgadoAntonio Ramon Delgado Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters The most expensive congressional races of the last decade How the 31 Democrats in Trump districts voted on impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.), are now supporting votes on articles of impeachment. A larger group of moderates haven't gone so far, but they're threatening to endorse impeachment in some form if Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, refuses to release a whistleblower report related to Trump's conversation with Zelensky when Maguire appears before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Seven Democratic freshmen with either military or national security backgrounds wrote a Washington Post op-ed on Monday warning that the Ukraine episode may be their breaking point on impeachment.

"If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense," the lawmakers wrote.

The group consisted of Reps. Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE (Calif.), Jason CrowJason CrowFemale impeachment managers say American public know a 'rigged' trial when they see one Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Abortion protester briefly interrupts impeachment trial MORE (Colo.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaMixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates Lawmakers warn Pentagon against reduction of US forces in Africa Tenth Congressional Black Caucus member backs Biden MORE (Va.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillOvernight Defense: Dems raise pressure on Esper to block border wall funds | Trump impeachment trial begins in Senate | Day one dominated by fight over rules House Dems express 'deepening concern' over plans to take .2B from Pentagon for border wall How the 31 Democrats in Trump districts voted on impeachment MORE (N.J.), Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinMixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner MORE (Mich.) and Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts House passes bills to gain upper hand in race to 5G The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE (Va.).

Several other freshmen also representing battleground districts adopted a similar position this week, including Reps. Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsHouse votes to temporarily repeal Trump SALT deduction cap Nearly all Democrats expected to back articles of impeachment First-term Democrats push Amash as impeachment manager: report MORE (D-Minn.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) and Haley StevensHaley Maria StevensFormer GOP Michigan congressman says Trump is unfit for office The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Pelosi looks to play hardball on timing of impeachment trial Debbie Dingell responds to Trump: 'You brought me down in a way you can never imagine' MORE (D-Mich.).

There are other signs of impeachment momentum, too.

A number of Democrats who had previously supported an impeachment inquiry, for instance, are now calling for articles to be drafted — a stark escalation of the process intended to oust the president. That list includes Reps. Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderUS officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  House Democrat pushes back against concerns that impeachment inquiry could spark political backlash Dem Congressman discusses plan to keep the house blue MORE (D-Ill.), Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumLet's prevent irreparable harm to an irreplaceable wilderness area Democrats secure fast-track to the floor for Canada-Mexico trade deal House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE (D-Minn.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Michigan governor to give Democratic response to Trump State of the Union address The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (D-Texas) and David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Smaller companies testify against Big Tech's 'monopoly power' Living in limbo may end for Liberians in the US MORE (R.I.), who heads the Democrats’ messaging arm.

“President Trump’s actions to pressure a foreign government into investigating a political rival are an absolute abuse of the powers of the presidency, and this flagrant corruption demands an urgent response from Congress,” Schneider said Tuesday in a statement.

The growing support for impeachment poses a test for Pelosi, the political pragmatist who views the 2020 elections as the Democrats’ best chance at removing Trump and doesn't want to risk a political backlash that could benefit Republicans at the polls. With that in mind, Pelosi has long rejected impeaching Trump, pointing to the lack of support from both voters and congressional Republicans, who control the Senate.

On Sunday, Pelosi sent a warning shot to the White House ahead of Thursday's Intelligence hearing.

“If the Administration persists in blocking this whistleblower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the President, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” she wrote in a letter to House Democrats.

But Pelosi avoided any mention of the “I-word.” And some party operatives are predicting she won't endorse the shift to impeachment without a stark shift in public support.

Trump, meanwhile, has forcefully denied reports that he leveraged U.S. military aid to compel Zelensky to investigate Biden, while also suggesting it would have been well within his powers to have done so.

“I put no pressure on them whatsoever. I could have. I think it would probably, possibly have been OK if I did. But I didn't. I didn't put any pressure on them whatsoever,” Trump said Monday.

He doubled down Tuesday morning, saying the Democrats' push for impeachment is politically motivated “nonsense.”

“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s a witch hunt. I’m leading in the polls,” Trump said as he arrived at the United Nations annual summit in New York. “They have no idea how they stop me, the only way they can try is through impeachment.”

Some Democrats have floated a proposal to create a special committee to investigate Trump's dealings with Ukraine. The idea was quickly panned by liberal impeachment supporters, however, who warned that it would only delay a process served best by the Judiciary Committee.

“This is an emergency. We don’t have the luxury of time w/ another committee,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezImpeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Sanders says it's 'disappointing' he's not on campaign trail in Iowa The Hill's Campaign Report: Ten days to Iowa MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted Tuesday.

“Judiciary has been investigating& putting the pieces together for months,” she added. “Impeachment belongs there."